If you treat yourself to our Locals French Quarter stroll, you will pass the Old Mint and a very interesting plaque put up to local heroes who were shot as traitors. At the time France was doing what it always does – fighting England. And doing what it always does – losing. They lost Canada. They most certainly did not want to lose Louisiana. So the French king kinda sorta gave it to his cousin the king of Spain. Only he kinda sorta didn’t tell anyone.
So these French business folks who were doing just fine merci beaucoup, with some side shady dealings as well, did not want any annoying Spaniard in the works. So, in true New Orleans style, a plot was hatched.
Six rabble-rousing city officials set the people against the new development. Some of them went to surrounding areas to decry this Spanish outrage. Downtown businesses prepared not to cooperate with the new jefes. Riots broke out. Finally, El Gobernador and his pregnant wife were escorted onto a ship and it set sail for anywhere-but-here.
And everything was great
… for about a year.
A whole bunch more ships came up the river this time with a lot more flags, a lot more cannons, and a different governor stepped off. This guy was a Spanish war hero, handpicked to go chill them Frenchies out in New Orleans. His name Mariscal Alejandro (wait for it) O’Reilly. Yep, an Irish guy.
O’Reilly came in, jailed a few guys – one gentleman was killed resisting arrest – pardoned most of the city for the uprising, but still had to crack the whip. After an investigation, the co-conspirators guilty of treason and had them dragged by their ankles behind horses through the mud of the fine streets of the old city to a fort on the edge of town. And that wasn’t the worst part of their day.
The Marshall ordered them to be shot in front of a firing squad. Today there is a plaque at the site of the execution at the foot of Esplanade, in two languages, that calls these men “patriots and martyrs.” The largest park in suburban Metairie next to New Orleans was one of the conspirator’s plantation, and it bears his name today – Lafrieniere.
A more interesting name is the street that begins at the site of the execution, it is known as Frenchmen Street, named for the six men that died trying to keep La Louisiane French. Today Frenchmen is a raucous, cleaner alternative to Bourbon Street, with many clubs, an outdoor art market and food.